Omnilinguism

Alright. It is time. I’m going to do what I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and what I originally set this blog up for; I’m gonna get a bit philosophical. I will propose that

Everything is a language.

Merriam Webster lists quite a number of definitions for language. Among them “a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings”, as well as “the suggestion by objects, actions, or conditions of associated ideas or feelings”. Both these definitions are relevant for my thesis. I’d even go as far as to broaden the first one to “having interpretable meanings” – a language doesn’t cease to exist just because nobody currently understands it.

People have dubbed many things a language; love, fighting, dancing, art… all these are, to some degree, acts of self-expression. Acts of artful performance that pulse with personality. But even when it is not intentional, everything we do leaves traces, and how we do it is a statement. That is why everything can be interpreted.

The most literal example of this are perhaps DNA traces and fingerprints. Without thinking about it, we write the story of our daily lives onto the surface of the world, even when we deem ourselves alone. But we do not live in a vacuum, thus acting is interacting, and every interaction contains information.

Of course, the messages we send on a molecular level are hard to influence – that is, after all, why we rely on them as sources of forensic truth. But on a higher level, an awareness of the existence of certain languages may very well change how we speak them.

Anytime I’ve sought to master a skill, I’ve thought of it as “becoming fluent” in it, and I have found that image very helpful. Herein lies, perhaps, the weakness of my thesis (not in terms of validity, but of relevance); I am a language person. I cannot say whether contextualizing the world through a linguistic lense is any aid to people who are wired differently.

What I can say, even if it is just a footnote, is that said lense has not only been useful to me in openly approaching the acquisition of new skills, and in learning to respect the subtleties and nuances involved in the execution of any activity – but it has also been an immense help in my professional field. And I’m not talking about writing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; programmers are not (primarily) mathematicians. They are translators and interpreters, especially in software engineering. It bemuses me just how many people in the field can still be surprised with such a statement.

But I digress. Perhaps my thesis, when expanded beyond my perspective, comes down to “Everything is a language to a linguistically inclined mind”. Maybe it is nothing more than a tautology. But I suspect not. And even if it were, I would not regret talking about it. I believe that the linguistic perspective is one to be learned from.

To this end, and to establish myself as a proper philosopher, I will make this thesis the first of Peter’s principles (not to be confused, of course, with the famous Peter principle), which I’ll collect on a dedicated page in the logs section of the site.

There are a few more such principles – some of them rather trivial, but still central to my understanding of the world – that I want to share on here when I find the time. I think those are a good place to start for this more philosophical facet of the blog. What do you think?

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